JUST out of the corner of my eye, a little movement took me a long way away from deadlines and the intensity of the computer screen. A gray spider, half the size of a dime, accelerated across the hard white floor. It was many legged, swift as a trickle of water down a chin, and as alien here as if it had stopped by from Mars just to say boo.
It went from right to left, scooting out from a mass of furniture legs and wires, reconnoitering, I assumed, or lost. It aimed for false safety, stopping in the tiny, shadowy area four yards away under the caster of an empty office chair, where terrible things could happen if anybody sat down.
There it turned around to face anything, apparently cocky, or perhaps amazed it had survived so far. It looked out at what had to be the ultimate terror for a spider - huge, thundering feet that walk without mercy.
Perhaps this is a young spider, I thought, dissatisfied with making webs, webs, always webs. I raced through the obvious questions: How did it get here? Why did it get here? Doesn't it know this is the second floor, and therefore one of its ancestors quite possibly left the dirt of earth or some nice bushes for this hard floor? Does a spider always think, ``Now this is a great place for a web.'' Does a spider think at all, or just a little bit, or does it borrow meaning in a nether world of thoughtless touch and go?
Not blessed with spider facts, I surmise this and that with no evidence but what the spider does. He comes suddenly, but is it a pointless darting across the newsroom floor? I think: How often do I think of the point of a spider, that it does not make a noise, or smoke, or hit, or say, ``Buy this.''
I like that in a spider.
But what is the point? Just webs and catching dumb flies? Just silken threads?
When the phone rings on my desk I pick it up and talk the talk. I watch the spider do what to me is amazing. It circles the caster; it takes a look around. It has survived the sprint across the newsroom floor and now, logically to a biped like me, it has a look around.
You take a trip by car. You drive for three hours, and then you stop at a little gas station 25 miles outside of a Big City. You stretch your legs. You have a look around. You walk around the caster.
Like spider, like man, I suppose.
Once I saw a horse sit in a rocking chair and whinny after a long day.
I suppose if you could train a spider to smirk or break a toothpick in half, you'd have a shot at the David Letterman show. But even more remarkable is to have the spider look around, because that is what I saw the spider do.
Next it ventures a few inches away from the caster to the south, then north; then it rockets across the floor, back from whence it came and is gone. Goodbye, Araneid.
Later I learn my spider has relatives known as balloon spiders. They climb to the tips of grass and secrete silk. The silk floats up and away, and when the strands achieve buoyancy, the spider is carried off by the breeze. The word ``gossamer'' comes from this kind of delight. On gossamer strands spiders have been carried everywhere, even to the slopes of Mt. Everest.
Could there be any other point but to have a look around?